I had an interesting meeting with a potential new client. He and his team wanted to sell more, and they wanted somebody to teach them “Tricks and techniques” to achieve this. I have a big problem with this, because I passionately believe sales isn’t about tricks and techniques (with the unspoken subtext of manipulating the customer), for me it’s all about your state of mind and helping the customer succeed.
The client’s business was in selling long-term, high value services outsourcing contracts. The sort of service contracts where relationships are very important. And precisely not the sort of contracts where tricks and techniques are going to do you any good at all.
In fact, those tricks and techniques are going to mortally damage your relationship with the customer right from the get go. Name me any customer – anywhere – who wants to build a long-term business relationship with a salesperson who employs tricks and techniques to manipulate their customers to secure business?
One-call sales vs multi-call sales
In Neil Rackham’s excellent book “Spin Selling” there is a critical distinction drawn between the one-call sale and the multi-call sale. In the former, in theory, you can get away with tricks and techniques, but in the latter, they are a positive no-no.
Neil goes on to quote a perfect example. While he was happy to buy a piece of low cost office equipment from a salesman he found obnoxious, he was not prepared to continue a discussion with a computer systems salesman where there was a doubt in his mind about working with the individual for the long term.
So you might argue the tricks and techniques have their place. I’d argue not, because the obnoxious salesperson was never going to get in the door ever again, so any possibility of repeat business had flown out of the window.
Two important points
The point develops in interesting ways, with equally interesting conclusions. The moment a sale becomes a multi-call sale, two important things happen:
The first is the salesperson has to truly want to help the customer. The salesperson’s intent becomes critical – and that intent must be to only want to help the customer, even if it means walking away from the potential sale.
The customer is buying the salesperson AND the solution
The second is the customer is buying the salesperson as much as they are buying the solution being proposed. This is supported by the recent HR Chally Group survey of why B2B customers buy which came up with the following startling figures. When asked “What’s important when customers choose vendors?” the following figures came out:
- Salesperson’s competence: 39%
- Total solution: 22%
- Quality of offering: 21%
- Price: 18%
I can hear the scoffing now – because most salespeople believe price is the key determinant. That’s because the customer said it was.
The problem is, when they heard it, it was presumably as a part of some sort of negotiation to reduce the price. As such, was it real? Or much more worryingly, had the salesperson done a poor job of matching the solution’s value to the customer’s need?
What can we learn?
My conclusion is clear. Forget tricks and techniques, please. Today, every customer is a source of potential continuing orders, revenue and profitability. While tricks and techniques might win you one sale, they’re going to actively prevent you from ever making another, or even the chance of getting a second meeting. Customers know that in this day and age, that behaviour is just not acceptable.
Start by getting your mindset right. I know this one is hard when the end of the month is approaching and your sales manager is demanding orders, but you’ll get much further, much faster with the right intent. Your intent is only to help your customer; your needs don’t apply.
They’re buying you
Then recognise the customer is buying you as much as the solution. They may well say your competitor will supply exactly the same solution as you at half the price, but if that were true, they would have bought it.
It’s much more likely this is a negotiating ploy and as a possibility, the competitor has an obnoxious salesman they have decided they just can’t work with and they’re trying to drop your price.
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Here’s what to do next
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